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Update:

 

.. and I know it is going to bring me the usual hate emails, and Bruce has just called me a bitch, but for once we are actually living how you imagine we are living, so I need to confirm all your prejudices.

 

We at the most beautiful place we have ever seen, Mbili in the Morovo Lagoon(8'39.7"S, 158'11.24"E). The sea is calm and turquoise, the sky blue and cloudless and the huge lagoon is spotted with hundreds of tiny jungle-clad emerald islets. At night the sky is stunningly clear, with millions of stars and a very bright moon. Last night we had yellowfin tuna chasing little fish around the boat, and at our last anchorage we were adopted by a school of several hundred squid, who stayed around the boat for 3 days, squirting little jets of ink every time we jumped in to swim. The snorkeling is great, millions of tiny (and not so tiny) colourful fish, huge giant clams with brightly-coloured ruffs and lovely coral, all in crystal clear waters. When we go in the dinghy, millions of tiny raindrop-sized fish jump out of the water ahead of us in a little rainbow arch. On the islands by the boat the birdlife is prolific- parrots, herons and hornbills, and the most unusual thing yet - no roosters! And to top it all off, we are now sick of eating lobster!

 

The downside is the ceaseless flow of carvers, all selling their wares, but as we now have enough carvings, they are very good-natured about us saying no. We have been here a few days, so are becoming part of the scenery and pretty much everyone who wanted to come over, be nosy and "story-on" has, so we are getting some peace at last. Tomorrow (subject to intense financial and trade negotiations) Daemon is joining the ranks of her tattooed crew and getting her own design! We have a carver teed up to come and carve her lintel around the companionway with a local design. Our initial thought was to have what is called "Spirit of the Solomons", which is basically a bunch of different fish. However, that had been niggling me as being just a bit too Remuera (with apologies to the bros in the 'hood!) and when we went to the carvers workshop this morning, I fell in love with a storyboard he had carved depicting local traditions. So yes, now Daemon is on for a story mural of a head-hunting canoe trip, complete with weapons, heads, canoes and other custom objects. Much more us!

 

So, everyone with yachts, you need to get your arses up here! It is insanely beautiful and the security problems don't seem too bad, certainly better than we had thought. Even if you haven't got a yacht, there is an ecolodge (local name for basic small house with about, oooh, no facilities) here, the Tibara Lodge, run by Chief Luton which will do accommodation & 3 meals a day for NZ$40 pp per day. The setting is stunning - one of the houses is over the water, with a verandah you can snorkel from, into a cloud of tropical fish, giant clams and even his enormous pet sea cucumber (not something I would have chosen for a pet, that there you go...). There is also a pretty well intact (apart from being wrecked) wrecked US WW2 bomber plane a couple of hundred yards away. Luton and his brother Clive seem to have been hit with the talking stick from an early age so have spent a considerable time here "storying on" and you'll get lots of stories from them.

 

Going for my afternoon snorkel now...

 

Jill

 

PS: Have learned another of those valuable yachting skills you never knew you needed to know. I can now shower and wash my hair using our new shower device - a 1.25 litre soft drink bottle with holes drilled in the lid. Yup, a measly 1.25 litre to be fresh and clean. Impressive!

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Oh sh*t, what am I doing here in the rain? I visited Marovo Lagoon back in 1978 and it is absolutely stunning.

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We were at Mbili in'92. Pleased to hear it hasnt changed. The carvings were fantastic, each piece we have brings back great memories of the bargaining needed to aquire it. One bowl took a whole afternoon, we paid for it with money, clothes and fishing lures and lines. The carver caught a large yellow fin with the lure on his way back home, then sold the fish to a dive boat so he felt very rich at the end of the day.

 

The Solomon Is are a great place to cruise just stay away from Honiara!

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I had a game of squash in Honiara, invited by a local . The court was outside i.e. no roof but concrete walls. After 1 min I was sweating like a pig, around 3 min I nearly fainted, after 5 gave up and had a beer instead.

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Update form Bruce and Jill

 

I know, I know, no emails for weeks - what do we do all day??? Well, we've been bloody busy despite the fact we calculated we had moved just over 80 miles in a month!

 

When I last emailed we were at Uepi Resort in Marovo Lagoon, having a ball, swimming with sharks, manta rays etc and generally relaxing. When we left there we picked our way through the reefs in the lagoon to the village of Sasaghana on Marovo Island.(S 08'30.6", E 157'58.6") We had no particular reason to stop there, except to say hi to a carver I bought a head-hunting axe from for Bruce's birthday, but we had the best time! We dropped anchor and were immediately inundated by canoe-loads of pikininis, bringing bunches of flowers and fruit and veges to trade. Daemon looked like a florist shop with several bunches of orchids, ginger flowers and birds of paradise and we had a week's supply of veges - all for a few pencils and balloons! I think we were the second yacht to stop in about 3 years.

 

We went into the village to see Albert, the carver, but he was away showing carvings to a superyacht (place is crawling with them - more superyachts than ordinary yachts) but his wife, Jean was at home and I spent the afternoon talking to her while Bruce tried to resuscitate their outboard. She was great company - very fluent in English, and had been bought up in Honiara, so had a good working knowledge of the outside world. We spent the afternoon sitting on her verandah, overlooking the beach, swapping stories of how life was for each of us, and laughing hysterically.

 

From there we went to Seghe, an fairly nondescript town, whose fame is an airstrip, currently being resurfaced. Bruce spent most of his time there trying to fix a diesel leak that has plagued us, and I got the story-on with canoe job. In one of my encounters I met Paul Kito from Tiroliloso Village opposite Seghe, who gave me 3 pineapples and wanted me to let other people know he sold produce. So, if you are near Seghe and need supplies, Paul's your man!

 

We had met up with Gar & Nicole on Dream Keeper who had been anchored with us in Uepi, and convinced them to come around into the Nono Lagoon with us to see the artists and carvers of Mbareho Island (S 08'34.6", E 157'48.9"). We had enough carvings, but were interested in woodblock prints from the only 2 artists working in that medium in the Solomons, both of whom live on Mbareho. As luck would have it, the first person we met there was one of the artists we were looking for, Aldio Pita, who then took us on a long carver tour of the village (Gar & Nicole were looking for bowls, so no pressure on us!) and then showed us his work. We bought a couple and then traded to get a 6 foot long piece of canvas we had on board printed with his designs. It took a few days, but the result is great, and looks really good on the wall by our bed. We had a great time there - the US Navy blasted a path through the reef to the outside, which is navigable by dinghy - a real maze through groups of islands, up tributaries, tiny streams etc, but a fun trip, with beautiful snorkeling at the end.

 

From there we went to Matakuri Lodge (S 08'39.7" E 157'52.02")(Bob: Benjamin & Jilly say hi to Pam Oliver) where we sat out a 24 hour thunderstorm, with one of the most spectacular lightening displays I've ever seen. I guess that is going to come with the territory now we are getting closer to the equator, but it doesn't mean I have to like it!

 

From there we headed over to Rendova Island, finding a quiet, uninhabited bay where we could hide from carvers, and then on to the bright lights and big smoke of Munda/Lambeti. Well, it has three stores, a bakery (foul bread, more air than substance), a petrol station, a beer store, a police station, a bank (with ATM, which was embedded in a giant 12' x 12' cube of concrete to prevent any entrepreneurial "self-service") a Telekom (internet computer in Honiara being fixed, no lines to NZ available), a vege market, which as Bruce pointed out was more of a drug market than a vege market, as it specialised in betel nut) and a diving resort with cold drinks and a great view. However neither of the 2 things we desperately needed - cooking gas refills and ground coffee! A pall of desperation is hanging over Daemon!

 

Bruce decided he wanted to go into VonaVona Lagoon to Zipolo Habu Resort for his birthday, so we picked our way through yet another series of reefs and shallows and anchored at the resort, where we are the only guests! (S 08'18.3" E 157'09.8")This means I get to commandeer the best beachside hammock with book and resort dog while Bruce goes exploring and photographing gross insects. It is pretty amazing - white sand and fish playing a couple of meters off the beach. (I'm running out of superlatives for Western Province!) We are having dinner there tonight as a birthday treat - coconut crab!

 

This morning we did a dinghy excursion to Skull Island, one of the local tambu (taboo) sites. It is where the skulls of the old chiefs and warriors are kept, as well as the graves of some more recent deceasees. It was quite magical - it is only a small island, and you follow a path for about 20 meters where you come across a huge mound of coral, with the crevices studded with skulls. On top of the pile is an old shrine, pyramid shaped and about 3 feet high, filled with skulls. There are also traditional artifacts, such as conch shell war trumpets and shell money in the crevices. Mind you some has been replaced with non-traditional stand-ins, unless teapot handles were a traditional treasure for headhunters.

 

We now plan to diesel up at the local fishing port, Noro, where fuel is the cheapest around, then head to Gizo to pick up our mail, reprovision (god, I hope they have coffee!) and clear for PNG.

 

Well, that's enough for now,

 

Love to all, and if anyone feels like emailing us, well, we wouldn't be averse...

 

The Daemons

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Update.

 

So Long to the Solomons!

 

Well, been there, done that, got the t-shirts and sure as hell want to go back there. We had no idea what to expect in the Solomons when we planned the trip, but we had a great time and met some great people.

 

After my last email we refueled at Noro which was great value. They're geared up to large cargo ships so the fuel was good, cheap and when pumped in the tiny amounts needed for yachts, had a seriously under-reading measuring system. After that we headed around to Gizo, the second largest town in the Solomons, and my, what a complete shithole it is! It was hit by a tsunami in April last year, but frankly, I think that probably improved it by washing some of the rubbish away. It is one main dirt rubbish-strewn street with a few stores selling general items (and none of them had coffee, which may have coloured my view of the place slightly), a couple of banks, a Telekom branch, hardware store, bakery, butchery (shack with a freezer of meat-ish products), a bottle store, a vege market and a couple of hotels. Oh, I forgot the Post Office, which after much asking where it was, turned out to be a small unlabeled blue fibro shack on the waterfront. We spent a few days there waiting for a parcel and clearing Customs and then headed up to catch up with a bunch of friends at Mono Island, in the Treasury Group at the top end of the Solomons.

 

Mono has a thing for NZers, as the NZ troops were in charge of liberating the island from the Japanese in WW2 and each year they have a NZ Day celebration in October. We were told that "NZ is a part of Mono" - that would certainly make it their largest suburb! They don't get many yachts up there and when we arrived with Tokimata, it made six of us in the bay, and the locals were beside themselves with excitement. When we arrived at 8.00am after an overnight sail, there must have been 30 or so canoes furiously paddling around to greet us. Not really conducive to good anchoring to have several small canoe-loads of kids paddling under your bow offering you limes and coconuts while you are having a fight over where to anchor (him - close to shore as less chain required to be put/out pulled in (manual windlass consideration), her - behind the other yachts - less flies, mozzies and kids).

 

There are heaps of war relics around the village and we went with one of the locals and the crew from Tokimata to see some of them. Tokimartian Peter was up on all the types of wrecked planes etc, but to the untrained eye it looked like an enthusiastic case of West Auckland fly-tipping. Has become known in-house as the "Junk in the Jungle" tour. Our guide Louis was very enthusiastic and keen to please, often to the detriment of the local flora and fauna. It got to the stage where we were too scared to comment on stuff. Admire an orchid stem in a tree? No problem, seconds later it would be wrenched from the plant and presented to you. I tried to photograph a huge butterfly the size of a swallow feeding on a hibiscus flower: "You like butterfly???" "Yes, it's lovely" WHANG - giant paw snatches butterfly from the flower. Missed that shot, but do have one of a rather stunned butterfly being held spread-winged between two huge hands.

 

The local girls were very friendly as well. One of the other yachties is Lars, a 40-something Norwegian anthropologist, rather good-looking and traveling alone. Poor Lars got stalked incessantly - he had canoe-loads of teenage girls paddling out to make assignations and every time he went on deck there would be impassioned cries of "Lars! Lars!" from the girls on the shore. All the local women were trying to work out how to marry off their daughters to him. He was cursing his conscience for not letting him take advantage of teenage girls. We moved down to a lagoon on another part of the island, and, as the villagers know what is happening on the boats before we do ourselves, there was a greeting committee that had paddled down to shout "Lars!" at him from the shore.

 

We had been trying to track down some carvings of stone net weights that we had seen in Honiara, and had thought, naah, we'll see heaps of those in Marovo, which is where they are supposed to originate. Wrong! We never saw another one, but it was a good way to rid of carvers - just hold up the one we did buy and say "We want another one of these" and as they didn't have any/didn't know anyone that made them, they'd paddle off dejectedly. So, it came as a surprise to find the one carver making them was now living in Mono (pretty much the ends of the earth, Solomons-wise) and that we knew his wife from Honiara. He made us another weight and avoided being given any of the children they offered us when they found we didn't have any, so we were very happy campers. We also got a lovely local paddle with carved handle (NZ$12), so next time we're up that particular creek, at least we'll have a paddle! There was much discussion when they were making the paddle for me - what length should it be to fit me, how big a blade etc - I didn't have the heart to tell them I just wanted it for decoration.

 

After a few days there we set sail for Kokopo on New Britain in Papua New Guinea. I use the term "sail" loosely - we motored for at least half of the trip, as there was no wind at all. The rest of it was extremely pleasant, sailing along on a broad reach in 7 knots of wind, even managed a BBQ while under way, a pleasant change from being hunkered down in rain and gales. It took 3 days and we arrived in Kokopo at first light this morning, and are anchored by a yacht we know, Osprey, off a resort(04'20"S 152'18"E), waiting for Monday so we can clear Customs and get some COFFEE! (We ran out 3 days ago and things are a wee bit tense)

 

Kokopo is near Rabaul, which used to be one of the best towns in PNG, however the area is very volcanic, and in 1994 the local volcanoes erupted and covered it in ash, so most stuff has moved to Kokopo, about 10 miles down the coast. Ken on Osprey took his boat down to Rabaul last week to check it out, and came back with it covered in ash, so we'll probably just check it out by bus. The volcanoes are across the harbour from us, and there is a constant rumbling and booming, with clouds of ash being shot into the air. Visibility is very poor because of the constant ash haze - it was very eerie coming in during the night, with all the smoke and volcano flashes, not to mention the ever-present lightening storms.

 

Well, that's it from us, just going to spend the afternoon relaxing after the trip, and trying to deal with the heat - we are only a couple of hundred miles from the equator, so life is pretty sticky at present.

 

Jill & Bruce

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But thank you all for your concern, and yes, we are aware that a certain amount of cannibalism is still in existence in PNG, but that is mainly in the Highlands, and we are out in the northern islands, and everyone here seems pretty friendly. The horror stories of robbery, rape & murder are mainly from Port Moresby, Lae & to a lesser extent, Madang, the people here are very proud of being honest. As one guy told Bruce, "One man tries to steal your wallet, the man behind him punch him in the face!" Despite this, Bruce did end up on the wrong side of the law, and nearly spent a night in gaol with three of the other skippers. This came about when we cleared in at Kokopo last Monday. As we do in every country, we notified Customs of our arrival and waaited on board for the usual boarding party to come and clear us. Normally Customs advises Immigration & Quarantine and they all arrive at once. So, five booted officials arrive on the boat, check our booze, stamp our passports and inspect our fresh fruit & veges, and then tell us we can go ashore. A mass exodus to town occurred, and we managed to secure some coffee before heading back to the boats where the resort owner greeted us to say Quarantine we looking for us and were severely pissed off. When they came out, they wanted to cart the skippers off to the lockup for breaching quarantine law by going ashore without being cleared. It turns out Customs & Quarantine aren't speaking, and the people looking at our veges were just Customs being nosy. When we explained, Quarantine calmed down and all was sorted amicably. Would have been a sight - four scrawny white guys in the Rabaul lock-up!

 

We had a nice week (apart from a hideous night with a surprise on-shore blow, which broke 2 boats from their moorings in our bay and gave the rest of us a sleepless night) in Kokopo anchored off the Rapopo Resort. We did a bus trip up to Rabaul to see the town, and it is a moonscape. One part of the town in buried in ash and the other end, near the port, is being kept open by bulldozers clearing the constant ashfall from the roads. Rabaul was a main Japanese base during WW2, and there are a lot of relics still here. We visited the main submarine base and also the barge tunnels carved in the hills where the transport barges were craned on to rails then hauled into tunnels and hidden. Some amazing construction work...

 

We are currently anchored at Mioko Island in the Duke of York group about 10 miles off the coast of Rabaul (04'13.8"S, 152'27.3"E), which is very beautiful and well-sheltered, but every second canoe wants to charge an anchoring fee, which is a bit tiresome. There has been a 150 foot superyacht complete with helicopter and about 4 motorboats in the lagoon for the last month, and the locals think everyone with a yacht has that much money. If only. We had a great day in at the school graduation/prizegiving today, although the speeches by one of the local reverends did go on and on and on for some time. No-one else was listening either - everyone was just wandering around under the trees, setting up betelnut stores, selling likliks (rudimentary ice lollies) and having a good catch up, so we just chatted as well. After the ceremony was over (9.30am - 2.30pm!) we had lunch with all the bigwigs (saveloy chow mein, a new fusion dish) and then went back out to find a custom dancing session in full swing, which was pretty amazing! Well, the inevitable happened and I ended up dancing, dragged into the fray by Salome, a very forward lass, sporting a bright red parrot on her head and a matching betel smile. How could I refuse? I dragged Fran from Melric in as well (the Melricans were the only other white folk there) and we were a huge hit, nearly caused a riot, and the big-stick guy had to beat the crowd back, literally. We were duly anointed with a cloud of talc over our heads, which is a sign of approval, when, as exhorted by one of our other teachers, Agnes, we shook our booties. The crowd roared....

 

The only danger we can see here is to the local pikininis, who don't understand the danger of approaching yachts to trade shells and limes before the yachties have had coffee. They get up at 4.30am, so think 6.00am is a perfectly sensible time to bang on the hull and call out to you. We try to keep a low profile, but as I told Bruce, a grown man crawling around on the floor of the boat avoiding a bunch of kids is pretty pathetic. He has now taken to giving the first lot balloons and lollipops on the condition they keep the others away. As Bruce says, poor buggers, their lifestyle is so different they have no idea why you come out at 6.30am and fire the flare gun though the bottom of their canoe. There is currently a small riot going on outside as to who gets first go at lime trading. Vitamin C overdose is incipient.

 

We will probably head back in to Kokopo tomorrow and clear Customs (you have to clear each port here, sigh) and come back up here on our way to Kavieng on New Ireland, where we intend to spend Xmas with the three other yachts we are traveling with.

 

Well, that's about it for me at the moment, time for sundowners on Melric. That should confuse the pikinini flotilla for, oooh, 2.6 seconds.

 

Cheers,

Jill & Bruce

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Happy New Year to you all!

We are currently anchored in a bay on Tsoi Boto, in the East Island Group of New Hanover in PNG (02'.27"S, 150'27"E) having a quiet day. We got bored witless in Kavieng waiting for our mail and other stuff, and after nearly murdering a couple of shop assistants when we tried to buy an icecream (you couldn't imagine how such a simple exercise could be turned into a textbook case of customer frustration), we decided to break free from the cruising pack and go out on our own. Although it is enjoyable to meet up with the others, traveling in a pack means you don't get to meet and interact with the local people as much as you do when you are by yourself.

 

We had a great Xmas Day, spent on Long Tall Sally, eating and drinking and talking crap. We talked to our families by cellphone and I got in some geriatric kitty time, feeding their 23 year old cat, Jade, crab (remarkably strong and insistent for his age, at least where crab was concerned!) so was a happy girl. Also got in parrot-time with Rowdy, a parrot belonging to the local charter yacht couple. We had another mud crab debacle, this time one escaped from his bonds and bucket on deck during the night (making us nervous about his whereabouts for the next couple of days) and the other from his bonds, and then from the pot when Bruce tried to cook him. These things are quite sizeable - one feeds two people, they have bodies the size of a dinner plate, and the claws the size of my hand, so you really, really don't want them loose in the galley! After much prodding with tongs he was encouraged back into his bucket (crab, not Bruce) and then quickly dumped into the pot where he was transformed from crab to Xmas dinner! We celebrated again on 27 December, as it was our 30th anniversary, so the standard of meals lately has been superb!

 

We set out from Kavieng the day before yesterday and motored a whole 10 miles to a very scenic (palm trees, clear turquoise waters, nesting turtles etc etc) island called Nusalomon, which was owned by Ranson and his family. His young son, Barfort, took us on a tour of the island and we got to see a lot of the Japanese bunkers and bombed guns from WW2 and to smell the pig that Barfort had speared a few days ago (Barfort is 9, or maybe 10, no-one can remember and distinctly feral) and which had escaped to die in the bush. We stayed and talked with them for a while and then as we were going back to the boat, Ranson's mother gave us a lovely gift of some gorgeous cowrie shells. They came out later and we had a good evening storying-on on the boat.

 

From there we headed up inside the barrier islands that shelter New Hanover from the sea, and these were the ones that took a battering during the recent storm surges. We haven't been ashore much yet, so can't tell how badly things are, but when we anchored here yesterday, Bruce thought the village was derelict until the ubiquitous pikinini canoe fleet headed our way. We have divested ourselves of the remnants of our trading clothes and our "deserving case" t shirts, so I am trying to convince Bruce I can use the space to buy more carvings to inject some cash into the villages. I won't repeat his comments. He is scathing about my canoe paddle collection, the philistine!

 

Last night was New Year's Eve and as I had had a couple of semi-sleepless nights from the heat, I was so knackered I was asleep by 8.45. Current joke is I saw in New Year on Chatham Islands time. I tried to explain to one of the locals yesterday that we would celebrate on NZ time, so New Year would start at 9.00pm local time. The concept of different time zones around the world was utterly incomprehensible to him and he sort of got the expression I get when trying to grasp the rudiments of quantum theory. Probably completely messed with his mind. Just talked to the others in Kavieng by SSB, and they sound very sorry for themselves, so I'm glad we were here!

 

Anyway, that's about it from us,

Take care and all the best for a great New Year.

 

Jill & Bruce

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